WARREN’S CAVE, ALACHUA COUNTY
The trip into Warrens Cave last Sunday went very well. We all got to do pretty much what each of us wanted to do and no one got hurt. Wendy collected some loose trash from the Crossroads and made a list of the contents of the Crossroads’ emergency kit. Wendy and I collected three more old bones from where I got that llama bone a few weeks ago, and hopefully Sean will get them identified before the FSS gettogether at the Brinson’s later this month.
I was excited to learn from Brian about the floor collapse between the Crossroads and the Second Drop. I have been going to Warrens for 30 years, and this new development IMO can be called a “major” event in Warrens Cave, at least in terms of the life of this caver. Here is a list of “major” events that I can remember: (a) the long term lowering of the aquifer in the mid-1970s which caused the pool at the Crossroads to dry up for at least two decades, (b) the collapse of the enormous chunk of bedrock forming part of the west wall beside the Second Drop, (c) the long term drought reversal that has allowed the aquifer to rise once again to the level of the Crossroads floor, (d) last year’s hurricane inputs of water and detritus, and (e) the current collapse of the floor. If anyone knows of other similar, significant events, I would like to hear of them. If I install a staff (water level) gage at the Crossroads, would y’all be willing to email me with readings whenever you are in the cave?
I do believe the enormous hunk of bedrock that has broken off (this needs a name: How about the Sixty-Ton Gorilla? It sits wherever it wants to) is continuing to settle down further. How far down can it go? Is there only sediment under it like the sediment in the lowered passage? Did the Sixty-Ton Gorilla break down because the sediments are washing away from below it, or vice versa? Who knows these things?
Like Brian, I am intrigued about the stratigraphy in the floor collapse, and wonder how much of it is recent and how much of it is much older; i.e., Pleistocene? Neat stuff, these dirty data banks. I dropped down into the lower passage using a rope I had brought and strung through a jug handle in the east wall. I did not use the new rope Brian had left permanently rigged at the Second Drop because it would have rubbed too much additional dirt into the lower passage. Frankly, I was more concerned about clods of dirt falling down into the back of my jumpsuit than I was about the dirt sides caving in, although the latter was cause for pause. I waded through muddy, tannin-stained water maybe 6 feet to a low restriction that led another 5 or 6 feet further and down into cleaner but still tannic water.
I do hope that, if cavers in the future decide to continue to dig the passage to the west of the Crossroads, they refrain from dumping their dirt into this new opening. Sediment-filled passages get opened up by fluctuating water tables, and it would be way cool if the process were allowed to continue and the passage subsequently enlarged sufficiently that additional surveying would be appropriate. That would be the first surveying that I know of in Warrens Cave in appx 14 years, and it would be within a stone’s throw of the entrance! Ok, ok, you’d have to have a pretty good arm.
The old bones (llama and whatever) that we collected for the FMNH were taken from a layer of sediment appx 16 inches below the former floor level on the north side of the Crossroads, yet the height of the lowered floor section on the south side of the Crossroads is much deeper, perhaps 7 – 8 feet. Thus, some of the exposed sediments in that passage could be very old.
After exploring and, yes, pushing new passage in Warrens (I went at least 4 feet beyond Brian’s boot prints), I tested my full-body Italian SRT harness in the Cashew Squeeze and in some of the passages between there and the Second Squeeze. It works fine. How convenient is it to not have to take off one’s SRT harnesses until one leaves the cave? How many times have I had to take off seat and chest harnesses below an entrance pit in TAG in order to explore the cave beyond, and then had to stop again to put them back on when returning to exit the cave? This is not so important in Florida, but it will be a real boon in TAG, and in Austria if I ever get there.
I saw no bats whatsoever in the cave. This was disappointing, as Adam Scherer had mentioned at the April FSS meeting that he had recently seen about 10 bats in the cave. He said they looked like they were hibernating, so maybe it has warmed up enough for them to awaken and move on. I hope that’s the case.
The majority of our group went all the way back to The Pit: Sean, Becky and Brandon Roberts, Mike Gordon, Ann Markley (“but everyone knows her as Kitty” – sung to the tune of the Beatles’ Rocky Raccoon), and Danny and Annette Brinton. Perhaps one of them will chime in with their adventures, and photos.
On a sadder note, when picking up the key to the cave, Bill Oldacre told me his dad had just died. He will be out of town as a result until sometime next week.